Three Steps to a Professional Image
© 2003 Vishal P. Rao

One of the biggest reasons home-based business entrepreneurs often fail to attract customers is that they also fail to create a professional image. A professional image is an element of your credibility and without credibility winning customers is an uphill battle.

Think of it this way: would you give your hard earned money to a guy selling products out of an alley? Probably not. For one, you would wonder where the good had come from. It would also be inconvenient because your method of payment options would be limited. You would also not have the peace of mind of knowing you could get a refund if it turns out that your purchase is defective or does not live up to your expectations. Just as you would have these concerns, so will your customers if you do not create a credible image.

Many home-based business owners feel they can't afford to create a professional image on a small start-up budget, but not only is creating that image possible even with limited funds, it's something you can't afford not to do.

Here are a few ways to create that image:

1) Provide Multiple Payment Methods

Most modern shops and businesses accept a variety of payment options, including cash, checks, and credit cards in order to make it more convenient for customers. Money orders and debit cards are also payment options widely accepted. You should try to accept as many of these payment methods as possible.

Additionally, online stores must be prepared to accept international funds or risk losing a percentage of their audience.

Accepting checks is the easiest method you can incorporate into your business. However, keep in mind that most people will be wary about making the check out to an individual when they feel they are doing business with a company. So you will need to create a business checking account. These accounts can be opened at any financial institution.

Unless you have officially registered your company through the government and received an identification number, your account will be listed as you doing business as (dba) your company's name. With the account, you will be able to cash checks made out to you or your business.

Credit card, debit card, and international funds, on the other hand, can be more difficult matters. At least initially, you may want to use a service such as Paypal to handle these transactions. A PayPal business account will cost you nothing to open, but a small percentage of the funds will be automatically subtracted for each transaction. You can also use Paypal to accept electronic check payments.

2) Provide Detailed Contact Information

Customers like to know who they are doing business with and how they can reach them if there is a problem with their purchase. However, many home-based business owners don't want to put their personal contact information online where it is accessible by millions, and you do want to protect your family's privacy. So instead, you need to create business-specific contact information.

First, you need to rent a post office box. Various sizes are available, and payments can be made every six months or every year. You can use your post office box for all of your business correspondence and can safely display it on your web site.

Second, you should either get a second phone line or a cellular phone which is dedicated to your business. Not only does this allow you to keep your family's privacy secure, but it also prevents your children or loved ones from answering important business calls in an unprofessional manner.

Also consider investing in a fax machine or using an online service such as efax. Including your fax number with your other contact information, not only provides customers with an additional method of communication, but also creates an image of professionalism.

3) Deliver on Your Promises

It can be easy to start taking customers for granted once they have paid for their product. After all, once you have their money, the hard part is over, right? Wrong! Customers can become repeat customers if they are treated well; they can also bring additional customers your way via word-of-mouth referrals.

Treating them well means delivering on your promises, including shipping products on schedule, standing behind your guarantee, providing effective customer service, and promotion products honestly. Doing these things sends a message to your customers that says not only that your company is professional but also that you care about your customers.

These three ideas are just the beginning but they will help you begin developing the image you want and need your company to have if it is to succeed.

Vishal P. Rao is the author of this article.

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Copyright © 2003-2019 Stephanie Foster unless otherwise indicated


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